Mitch Altman travels to Paris

Mitch Altman – Greetings from Paris! I arrived here after no sleep the night before, my Irish hosts providing me with one last chance to flavor their penchant for late-night conversation. After sleeping for 14 hours (at my host’s apartment – more on him in my next post), I was ready to visit /tmp/lab, the hacker space in a very industrial area just south of town. I arrived after an inadvertent tour of the suburbs of Paris (I took an express train by accident), and was greeted by the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) group that meets at the space. Then had an enthusiastic conversation about the role of hacker spaces in society. Hacker spaces are currently popping up all over the world. Most members want to make the world a better place for everyone. The consensus tonight: one thing we, as hackers, can do is provide people information and tools to create things each person can use to make the world a better place – as they see it – and hacker spaces provide the infrastructure for us to do our magic. Some of the magic happening at /tmp/lab includes creating a mesh-network mobile phone system (cheap phone calls for all!), creating art projects to stop legislation that would destroy net neutrality, a toxic gas sensor, RepRap (a robot that can make just about anything, including itself!), increasing awareness about DRM and privacy issues (such as RFID), teaching others how to use technology for their benefit. Everything is open-source, of course. I’ll be giving a two-part workshop at /tmp/lab later this week: to teach people to solder electronic circuits later this week, and also to discuss how the amazing (and inexpensive) power of music players can be repurposed as hacking tools. He continues, considering email vacations... I’m in Paris. But only sort of in Paris. ‘Cause cyber space is sort of a place, too. And that’s really where I am. I just finished catching up on half my email. Half. It took all day. Not a short day, either, but a really big, long day of only email. It occurs to me on days like this that technology isn’t really as wonderful as we’d often like to believe. Well, it is and it isn’t. Without email I simply would not be able to do what I do – travel all over the world giving workshops and presentations and meeting so many incredible people, while at the same time running a business I love that pays me enough to keep doing all this. Yet, if I get involved with something incredibly interesting along the way, something so cool that it warrants taking up a good chunk of a day (say, like getting to know a new person, or finding a groove in a project, or walking around a beautiful mountain or city, …), then I don’t have enough time to answer all of my emails. Two or three days of that and the email client’s icon looms heavy on my desktop, and I have a day (or two) like today waiting for me. Someone I emailed recently gave me a wonderful idea: I received an automatic vacation message that said that they were on a week-long email holiday, and that my email was automatically deleted. It went on to say that if what I was writing was really important that I should write again at the end of the week. I wonder if I could get away with this…
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